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Europe's 'Parrot Fever' Outbreak: 5 Fatalities Reported

The World Health Organization (WHO) disclosed a substantial outbreak of psittacosis, commonly known as parrot fever, affecting numerous individuals across multiple European countries. This outbreak, initially identified in 2023, has persisted into the current year, resulting in the reported deaths of five individuals, according to CNN.

Parrot fever is caused by bacteria belonging to the Chlamydia family, and its transmission occurs through contact with various wild and domesticated birds, including poultry. Notably, infected birds may not exhibit visible symptoms, yet they can shed the bacteria through breathing or excretion.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) elucidate that humans often contract parrot fever by inhaling dust particles contaminated with secretions from infected birds. Additionally, transmission can occur through bird bites or direct contact between a bird's beak and a person's mouth. Importantly, the disease does not spread through the consumption of infected animals.

While human-to-human transmission is deemed possible, it is considered uncommon, as indicated by existing studies. Most recent cases have involved individuals who had direct exposure to infected domesticated or wild birds, as highlighted by the World Health Organization.

Typically, individuals contracting parrot fever experience mild symptoms, manifesting approximately five to 14 days after exposure to an infected bird. Common symptoms include headaches, muscle pain, dry cough, fever, and chills. Fortunately, antibiotics are effective in treating the infection, and fatalities among humans are rare.

Several European countries have observed an uptick in parrot fever cases, raising public health concerns. Austria, for instance, typically records two cases annually but reported 14 cases in 2023 and an additional four cases this year as of March 4. Denmark, usually experiencing 15 to 30 cases each year, confirmed 23 cases in this outbreak by February 27, with 17 hospitalizations and four fatalities.

In Germany, 14 parrot fever cases were reported in 2023, and an additional five cases emerged this year. Nearly all affected individuals developed pneumonia, with 16 requiring hospitalization. In Sweden, cases have increased since 2017, with an unusual surge in late November and early December, totaling 26 cases. This year, 13 cases were reported, marking a decrease compared to the same period in the past five years.

The Netherlands also witnessed a notable surge in cases, recording 21 instances from late December through February 29. This figure represents twice the number of cases recorded during the corresponding period in previous years, according to the World Health Organization. Typically, the Netherlands reports around nine cases annually.

The WHO has expressed its commitment to monitoring the ongoing outbreak and assessing its dynamics to guide public health responses. The notable increase in parrot fever cases underscores the importance of vigilance, preventive measures, and international collaboration in addressing emerging infectious diseases.

March 7, 2024 2:56 p.m. 11968

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